On Monday, a severe storm system swept through parts of the eastern US. The DC area was expected to be hit hard. Federal government offices closed early to allow their employees to get home safely (as a former govvie myself, I'm going to say that this was a very big deal). Metro ran additional trains to help get people home in a timely fashion. Our electric company even emailed us to warn that power outages were likely. We were in no mood for a power outage, having lost power the previous week in another severe thunderstorm for about 11 hours. There wasn't anything we could do, so we hunkered down and hoped for the best.
It made me think of Hurricane Fran from 1996. I grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, which is inland and very rarely experienced severe damage from hurricanes. On a Thursday afternoon, my high school canceled all after school activities (marching band practice, for my purposes) and canceled school for the following day. I thought I had really lucked out, having had it with both marching band and school as a whole. A missed marching band practice and a day off for some rain and a few downed tree limbs? Yes, please!
Well, we woke up the next morning to find that four large trees had fallen on our car and that we had lost power. I think the only reason we slept through the destruction was sheer exhaustion. When we checked in on some retired neighbors, it turned out that had been up much of the night, terrified. I forget how many days it took for power to be restored, but it was definitely multiple days. A complicating factor for us was that losing electricity meant losing water, so I remember trips in a rental car to a local creek to fill up buckets of water to flush toilets. Let's just say my naivety regarding severe weather and closings/cancelations ended then and there.
In the end, with Monday's storm, we ended up being very lucky. We kept power and damage in our immediate area was minimal. But this was on the heels of a more destructive storm and part of a summer of horrific climate disasters around the world. The environment has been my number one issue since my teens, and I have long been upset that we collectively have not been doing more to change course. Up until recent years, I think most of us thought we had more time before we started to see severe effects of climate change, but now they are here and we are all living these effects one way or another.
Particularly in the US, a lot of blame goes to the government for not taking more action. To be fair, there have always been some people in the government who have tried, but they have been overruled by others, many of whom I suppose thought they would be dead soon enough anyway, and were happy to leave a climate disaster to their children and grandchildren whom they profess to love. Others have been in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry (where is campaign finance reform when we need it?). But I am increasingly frustrated with individuals who seem to believe that government inaction is some sort of free pass to be as wasteful of resources as they want.
I'm not writing this to be sanctimonious. I certainly have room to improve in this regard. But there are choices we have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as living in a smaller home, driving a hybrid vehicle, using mass transit when possible (I, for instance, use it to commute to work every day), and composting. I have no idea why the health of the one planet where humans can live has been so politicized, but for what it's worth, I live in a fairly liberal area, and am continually blown away by both the number of gas guzzlers on the road and the number of people who refuse to use mass transit, even in an area that has pretty decent mass transit options.
Regardless of what the government does or does not do to try to save us from manmade climate disaster, we owe it to ourselves--and to the younger humans in our midst--to try. I wrote previously about the success of our community composting program. When enough people decide to do something, it makes a difference.